Saturday, June 18, 2011

Mountaintop Motel Massacre (1986)

As 1986 came around, it was becoming clear that the slasher movie craze wasn't going to last forever. Sure, we got "Friday the 14th Part 6", "Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2" and "April Fools Day", but we also got duds like "Aerobicide" and "Killer Party", and more duds were to come. Granted, there were duds beforehand, but here the genre was really beginning to get long in the tooth for some. So, while Jim McCullough Sr.'s movie "Mountaintop Motel Massacre" isn't exactly a dud, it's not much of a hit either.

Evelyn (Anna Chappell) has spent years in an insane asylum, and she's now free. So, how's she going to spend her time out? Why, by killing her young charge, then tormenting a group of diverse customers with vermin, and bringing her old sickle to get the job done...

One review I read a few days ago described this as "a typical 80's slasher film." While it's certainly a slasher movie from the 80's, it isn't that typical. In fact, the plot and some of the events in the movie have more in common with 70's oddities like "The Terror at Redwolf Inn" and "Don't Look in the Basement", which proves to be a treat and a hindrance. On one hand, there's plenty of weirdness going on, with Evelyn's worldview being predictably distorted and offbeat. The score by Ron Di Iulio is great, an oddball and fun piece of electronic swirls and sounds that perfectly contemplates the eerie backwoods atmosphere. I also really like the attention to characters, which range from a reverend (Bill Thurman) to two wanna be country star sisters. The characters provided are diverse, and a welcome change from the usual horny teens.

However, as I said, the 70's style story and events are also a hindrance. For one thing, this movie is from the mid 80's, and what might have worked in the early to mid 70's doesn't work as well here. There's bloodshed (including a nifty bit with a hand being severed), but most of the kills are pretty uneventful. While I like the attention given to the characters, none of the performances are that good, as people tend to snoop around when they shouldn't (though I do like the sole black man in the movie pointing out that you'd have to be stupid to go snooping around. He was the smartest guy in the whole movie.) Speaking of which, I'm amazed as the basic lapses of logic in this movie, in which people don't notice that Evelyn is so clearly unhinged, and are willing to accept her as the motel owner. The ending is pretty weak too, with the final confrontation with Evelyn feeling poorly choreographed and uneventful.

To be honest, if this had come from the early to mid 70's, I'd probably be a little more forgiving towards the movie. As it stands, it's not a terrible movie. It just happens to be one that doesn't offer much to win people over.

Rating: 5.5/10

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